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Indeed Yiri Baa Boita: A Tribute to the Late Sering Alieu Saho

Apr 20, 2016, 11:01 AM | Article By: MIS Gassama

To say that the late Alhaji Alieu Saho was the true prototype of the mammoth proverbial African Baobab tree of knowledge and scholarship, can only be an understatement. As a great Arabic/Islamic scholar, a prolific poet and writer, indeed an all-rounder, Sering Alieu as he was fondly known, is a hard act to follow. It is therefore easy to surmise how preponderant the void brought about by his passing has been not only to his immediate family and fellow fraternity members, but in equal measure, to the larger Muslim and Non-Muslim communities of the Gambia and perhaps far beyond our Senegambian boundaries.

As an Arabophile still in the prime of my youth, I was profoundly impressed by Sering from our very first encounter which dates back to the heyday of the then Radio Gambia towards the tail end of the 1960’s. This period also represented the early days of the advent of the modern media Islamic proselytization in the manner of the weekly Islamic programmes broadcast over the waves of the said state news medium in Mandinka, Wolof and a few other local languages.

In fact, he played host to me when I came to the studios for my audition to become an alternate presenter of the weekly Muslim World Programme in Mandinka in partnership with my mentor in many ways, the accomplished Arabic/Islamic icon of Pirang, the late Alhaji Omar Nyandu. Prior to that, the Programme was associated with the veteran Arabist/Islamist in the person of Alhaji Hattab Bojang of blessed memory who was a close relation of his.

Sering Alieu himself took over from the late Ustas Mass Kah, veritably the elder brother of all of us. I can still vividly remember with fond memories, our lively afternoon gatherings at the latter’s residence on Fitzgerald Street in Banjul. What a knowledge-seeking crop of young men we were in a group made up of the likes of the late Mohammed Lamin Bah Jr., the late Alhaji Dr Mangum Ceesay and occasionally the late Sheikh Hattab Bojang. Those were the very early days of the spread of Arabic/Islamic culture and education in the Gambia through the media.

One thing that I should not fail to mention here is that the intellectual chemistry between Sering Alieu Saho and my humble self was spontaneous in nature and remained so even after my relocation to the Diasporan yonder. Perhaps this was so because when it came to matters of letters and poetry in general, our minds as the old dictum goes, more often than not, thought alike. He was perhaps the greatest Arabic poet of his time in the Gambia. And whilst I admired him for his exceptional literary prowess, there was reciprocity and encouragement on the part of this great elder brother and friend of mine towards me as a young Arabic poet. His profound appreciation of the Islamic jurisprudence among a vast array of other subjects in Arabic was acknowledged virtually unanimously by his peers both here in the Gambia and in the neighboring Republic of Senegal and maybe even far afield. Little wonder therefore, that he was so much admired for his extraordinary level of knoledgeability. Being such an intellectual heavyweight and being at one and the same time so humble and down-to-earth was a rare trait that added value to the persona of Alhaji Sheikh Alieu Saho. This soon became his trademark throughout his long productive life.

I have not a scintilla of doubt in my mind that the Senegambian people and the wider Muslim Ummah will very much miss in him a great icon whose departure is a colossal loss to us all, including, of course, his bereaved family.

Adieu Qadi Sering Alieu Saho, till our paths cross again within the corridors of Jennatul Firdaws and Jennatul Ma’awa.